First, let's step back and get some background. CBT (originally called CT, cognitive therapy), developed by Aaron Beck in the 60's proposes that thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all connected, and that we can attempt to overcome personal difficulties by identifying and changing unhelpful or objectively inaccurate thinking. To graphically illustrate the inter-connectedness and interdependence of these three functions, I often draw a circle, with double-headed arrows showing the flow between thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
I don't want to exclude another, similar (almost identical) therapy: REBT, rational emotive behavior therapy (originally called RET, rational emotive therapy), developed by Albert Ellis at about the same time as CBT (Ellis and Beck were energetic rivals). According to the Albert Ellis Institute's website, REBT "is an action-oriented psychotherapy that teaches individuals to identify, challenge, and replace their self-defeating thoughts and beliefs with healthier thoughts that promote emotional well-being and goal achievement." Sounds a lot like CBT, right? Well, it is. REBT uses an alphabetical system to track the cascade of internal cognitive/emotional events that lead to sadness, agitation, worry, fear, anger, and all the rest.
Here are the ABC's of REBT:
A: Activating event
B: irrational Belief
C: Consequences of having the belief about A
D: Disputing the irrational belief
E: Effective new thinking
Here's an example I found on StressGroup.com:
A. (Activating event): Drunk people outside, making some noise.
B. (irrational Belief [iB] I have about A): They MUST NOT make any noise.
C. (Consequences of having those beliefs about A): When noisy drunk people pass in the street outside late at night and wake me up, I Feel angry. It feels bad. I lie awake feeling angry and upset and don't get back to sleep for a long time.
D. (Dispute the irrational Beliefs [iB’s] in B by turning them into questions and answers): WHY shouldn't they make any noise? Where is that commandment written in stone? Where is the evidence? Again, who made you Supreme Ruler of the Universe dictating how people Should or Must act?
E. (Effective new thinking. Substitute something rational instead of B): Drunk people are often noisy, but it's no BIG deal. I don’t like it, but I can deal with what I don’t like. Maybe I will touch base with them in the morning (when they are sober).
Here's a recording of Ellis discussing his theory: RET Example
And here's a real-world example inside that thoughts-feelings-behaviors circle that might "feel" familiar: